The judgement by the High Court of Gujarat ordering the Government of Gujarat to lift the ban on 'Jinnah: India Partition Independence' by Jaswant Singh has warmed the cockles of the hearts of many who cherish the basic values enshrined in the Constitution of India namely Justice, Liberty, Equality and Fraternity. It is surely a time to applaud!
However, the point of debate is whether one has to be running to the Courts of law even for taken-for-granted Constitutional freedoms and rights? Or if Governments and people have the sagacity to understand the essentials for the growth and well-being of any society?
In his celebrated work, 'The Idea of Justice', Nobel laureate Amartya Sen makes an important distinction between two different concepts of justice in early Indian jurisprudence-between niti and nyaya. "The former idea, that of niti, relates to organizational propriety as well as behavioural correctness, whereas the latter, nyaya, is concerned with what emerges and how, and in particular the lives that people are actually able to lead".
While highlighting the inter-relatedness of these two concepts, Sen makes it abundantly clear that whilst niti can be safe-guarded, protected by institutions like the Court, it is nyaya that should permeate every level of society. What is essential then is an environment of justice where civil society movements including the media take a strong stand for truth and for justice. "It is bad enough," he says, "that the world in which we live has so much depravation of one kind or another (from being hungry to being tyrannised); it would be even more terrible if we were not able to communicate, respond and altercate".
Two recent incidents bring home this reality:
On July30th, a 22 year old Dalit youth, Rameshbhai Devjibhai Parmar was allegedly brutally murdered by the higher castes in his village Ghada, near Deesa, Banaskantha District. A rally organised by the Dalit Atyachar Sangarsh Samiti on August 24th, in Deesa to protest this killing and other atrocities on the Dalits was lathi-charged and disbanded by the police. Despite protests and rallies, precious little has been done till today to ensure justice.
Then on September 5th, the EMRI Ambulance Service brought a 60 year old dying woman to the Missionaries of Charity in Ahmedabad. Apparently, she was thrown out thrice from various hospitals in the city because she was destitute.
Whether it is the reality of Rameshbhai or the destitute woman, injustices seem to have become endemic and many of us just do not want to take the side of justice. Many have also developed an immunity to the plight of the victims of injustices; be it the Gujarat Carnage of 2002, the condition of the small fishermen along the coast of Gujarat or the denial of forest lands to the tribals. As long as we are not affected, it seems, that it really does not matter of how the other half lives or dies!
We need to get out of our comfortable world of illusions and lies. At the heart of any vibrant society, is the courage and ability to mainstream justice.
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